• Culture and Entertainment

    Classic Hollywood Movies I’ve Watched This Quarter

    I’ve watched 8 classic Hollywood movies, most of them from my lists.

    To Catch a Thief, 1955
    A famous movie starring two famous actors. I think that its overrated. I found it interesting enough, and I laughed, but the humor isn’t particularly witty. The identity of the thief isn’t surprising (and I’m easily mislead or at least allow myself to be easily mislead), and I just didn’t find the mystery exciting or the romance strong.

    The Thin Man, 1934
    I wanted to watch this after this review highlighted the main couple. They are adorable as described. This mystery is more complex than the above movie because of all the characters and all the complex intrigue. The movie had some humor, but not tons or at least not my kind of humor. And I thought it quite dark and scary, especially near the end. However, I still would like to watch more of this series.

    Laura, 1944
    Dana Andrews plays the detective in this film, but with his looks, clothes, and worldly persona, he appears like a gangster. I liked that juxtaposition of “bad guy” feel on a good guy character. I enjoyed the film noir aspect of this film. But the dramatic, suspenseful music keyed my nerves so tight! The plot may seem absurdly convoluted and simple, but like I said, I’m easily fooled with mysteries, and I don’t think the plot is everything (or even the main thing).

    Holiday Inn, 1942
    I found the humor in this film to my taste; the sabotaging that goes on amongst the various characters is outrageous and hilarious. The dancing is excellent but of a different type than the grand numbers in White Christmas, but the music (except for the song I’m Dream of a White Christmas) is decidedly inferior. The plot is much inferior too. A younger Bing Crosby is nice to look at though.

    Funny Face, 1957
    Meh, and I’m not a Fred Astaire fan.

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939
    Jimmy Stewart looks so sweet and often plays such sweet, honorable, naïve characters. I felt that his character in this film, Jefferson Smith, exhibits these qualities the highest I’ve seen yet. While the plot overall (not enough romance) isn’t really my thing, the naivete of Jefferson Smith and his endurance and sweetness added to the plot made the film enjoyable.

    The Ox-Bow Incident, 1943
    In comparison to Lonesome Dove, this Western seems almost saintly; it has a solid moral framework. It clearly indicates that vigilantism isn’t justice. However, I don’t believe that the guilty men murder the innocents in purely hot-blood mob mentality (as the film and DVD cover imply) because they have plenty of time to cool down and plenty of opportunities to listen and observe. It’s clearly murder, not manslaughter. I’m not sure that it is great to focus so solely on violence in movies.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    Classic Hollywood Celebration: Friendly Persuasion Review

    I am linking up here again.

    Former friends introduced me to Friendly Persuasion years ago. I watched it by myself first and enjoyed it and then more recently watched it several times with my mom and sisters. This 1956 film features actors Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins and actress Dorothy McGuire (whom we’ve seen in the 1960 The Swiss Family Robinson which we also love). The film is very loosely based on Jessamyn West’s novel of the same name.

    The story is set in Civil War era Indiana and features a rural Quaker family trying to live in a quiet way and being forced to come to terms with the fact that the forces of war are approaching close to home.** Each of the mature or maturing members of the Birdwell household has his or her own particular views and connections to the war, and this produces some familial discord. Despite all this family love, faith, and honor prevail.

    Although the overarching plot leads to conflict with marauding Rebel troops, much of the film depicts the day-to-day struggles, activites and idiosyncries in this Quaker household. I love the depictions of the familial, neighborly, and outside world interactions of the Birdwells and how differently each member reacts to their Quaker responsibilities. Each person is a distinct individual and yet the conflicts tend to be small and humorous (until the end) and are always resolved.

    As an older movie, the film posseses some drawbacks frequent to this period including noticeably fake scenery, not noticeably period accurate clothing, etc. The music underwhelmed me, nothing unique or heart-stirring. The plot is more a string of vignettes leading to a climax as the war touches the Birdwells with graduating intensity than a perfectly wrough plot, so at times some scenes can feel a bit random. Nevertheless, I love the portrayal of the simple, homespun daily life interspersed with plenty of humor and a little love.

    If you need drama or a comprehensive Civil War plot, this movie is not for you. But if you enjoy simple, sweet stories and are interested in this unique perspective of mid-19th century American life and its gentle perspective on the war, you may enjoy the film. I had no knowledge at all of the story (a level of ignorance which I often love for books and movies) and love “homey” stories and so I appreciated the simple portrayal of Quakerism** and the war. Nothing too complicated or nuanced needing an intellectual conversation, but resting sweetness and simplicity.

    I loved the movie, so I got the book from the library, but after looking through it, I could see very little connection to the story I liked and decided I wasn’t interested enough to try reading it.
    **Because I must ALWAYS give a history lesson, I must point out that Quakers were not traditionally formal pacifists; they did place a greater value on overall kindness and humanness, but the stringent pacifism came far later. I learned this from Albion’s Seed, and I truly cannot recommend that book enough.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    A Celebration of Classic Hollywood Week: Film Review of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

    I’m linking up at An Old-Fashioned Girl for A Celebration of Classic Hollywood Week. Since I seem to be either criticizing or incoherently fangirling or only noting a few details when I write about movies, I thought I’d better look up some more formal guidelines for movie reviewing. I found two printouts from the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University (this and this). I just used the first handout and very generally, but I found it helpful.

    My sister and I watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at a sleep-over with friends as young preteens or teens. I felt a bit shocked at what I then considered its coarseness (“Bless Your Beautiful Hide . . .”). You have no idea, little me. I don’t think I warmed up considerably as the film progressed either. But later, after hearing others mention it, I tried it again, and then even later watched it with my mom and sisters. I own it now, and we love it.

    Anyway, this 1954 musical features Jane Powell and Howard Keel (I’ve watched him in Annie Get Your Gun recently, and he looks SO different without a mustache) as well as several Broadway dancers and singers and an actress who later played Lois Lane in one of the Superman films (this we discovered after watching it with extended family and an aunt recognized the actress; I love how movies can be such an interactive experience). The film’s main plot revolves around the unconventional (what an understatement!) wooing of “seven slumachy back woodsmen” e.g. the Pontipee brothers in frontier era Oregon Territory. The brothers of course run into conflict with the proper townsmen, but eventually all the (wild, sometimes lawbreaking) boys marry their (incredibly fickle) girls.

    This movie is so silly, fun, and hilarious. Several of the songs are quite humorous and others are quite sentimental (these are NOT our favorites; we skip some out of boredom). Because Adam marries first, his wife Millie takes on the first part of civilizing the brothers, with considerably mixed results! The boys’ own ladies complete the polishing work. Millie, Gideon, and Hannah teach Adam his own separate lesson. I love the hilarity of course, but I also like the sweet familial and romantic scenes mixed in all the drama and fun.

    As is typical of old musicals, this film is short and the story is simple. Only a few of the brothers and only one of the wives show any great characterization. The film focuses on singing, (melo) drama, and humor. It is a light, short, fun film for when you aren’t in the mood for intensity of any type.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    More Old Movies on Amazon Prime and AFI’s Top Old Hollywood Actors and Actresses List

    Made for Each Other (1939)
    A little humor, sweetness, romance, and drama. I liked it much better than Penny Serenade (I considered the simple home life genre similar), but it received much poorer ratings. Jimmy Stewart (and what a man: Reagan Republican and WWII hero!) is much handsomer and nicer seeming than Cary Grant (who I think is fit for romantic comedy, emphasizing the comedy).

    An Affair to Remember (1957)
    Again, I like Cary Grant in comedy, not gushing romantic movies; I cannot take him seriously in a serious role. I found this plot boring and frothy. And wow, was the main woman stupid. And I thought her first boyfriend much handsomer . . . and he was probably nicer. She was just such a goose. However, this line from Grant’s character is hilarious, “I’ll just take my ego for a walk.”

    Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
    This was SO stupid. Howard Keel is handsome (he looks so different without a mustache) and the song, “I Can Do Anything Better Than You” is hilarious. But the music wasn’t very good, the acting and singing of the Annie Oakley actress was awful, and the plot was tedious. I skipped through much of the movie. I had watched a clip of the song before, and I should’ve just done that again. It was disappointing because the singers were not equal in talent.

    Also, you should check out the American Film Institutes 100 Years . . . 100 Stars. What do you think of the categorization? And how many of these have you seen? I feel like I have seen more men from this list than women. Even though neither Humphrey Bogart nor Cary Grant are my favorites, I can understand why they are near the top.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    State Fair (1945)

    Okay, Gregory Peck has a rival in Dana Andrews (okay, so Peck is probably still my favorite leading man, but Andrews comes in close second).
    I enjoyed this film. Dana Andrews is so handsome, Margie’s outfits are so pretty (I mean to make some similar), the Frake parents are hilarious, and its just fun. But I thought Margie and Wayne’s naivete rather disconcerting. Hers, because normally for a story like this, the guy is a Wickham or Willoughby who means naught, and his, because a grown man should not be that dumb. Also, I can understand Margie’s discontent; she had a unattractive, boring, maybe suitor, and wanted a more interesting life. But Wayne had everything he wanted and needed. I think their stories show the difference between not wanting to settle versus discontent. And I am glad of the ending, even though I think early Hollywood has a desire to make everything end unnaturally happy (more on this theme). I mean more often (Roman Holiday does exist after all) than modern films and more wholly.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    How to Steal a Million (1966)

    This post contains SPOILERS.

    ************


    With my accent I have trouble pronouncing “steal” so near to “million” in the same sentence. I want to say, “How to Still a Million.” I was somewhat confused as to how I was supposed to pronounce “million.” I normally pronounce “steal” as “stEEl” and “million” as “millyen.” If you pronounce these differently I would love to know how. I love English dialects, accents, word choices, and language patterns.

    I loved this movie. The plot is simple and ridiculous and paired with the personalities and tones makes for a sweet and hilarious romantic comedy. I am just not good at describing it, it is just simply delicious. I don’t normally like ridiculous (you know, anything in The Princess Bride line as far as humor or absurd melodrama, e,g, YA romance), but this plot paired with deadpan sarcasm and general wittiness is de-light-ful.
    Simon McDermott (O’Toole) is soooo funny (and handsome). I think the chemistry and interaction between Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn perfect and perfectly hilarious. The whole movie is brilliantly quotable as I noticed when reading through a quote list (and the list didn’t include everything), too bad I am not a good quoter. And I mean tons of pithy exchanges. But it isn’t just the lines, the timing, facial expressions, circumstances, everything makes it so funny.
    Watch it. If you have Amazon Prime, Prime video currently offers it free as of 8/23.
  • Culture and Entertainment

    A Few More “Silver Screen” Movies

    I had a brief period of Amazon Prime in the summer, so I watched some old films from my list.
    A Penny Serenade (1941)
    Boring, especially for the length.
    His Girl Friday (1940)
    -Both leading characters were hysterical . . . and that poor goof of a fiancé
    -I felt that the ending failed miserably-as a romance anyway-I guess if you looked at the film as purely comedy (I didn’t . . . maybe I was supposed to?), the ending was funny.
    -This is the role that I like to watch Cary Grant portray. Rom-com. Not pure romance as in Penny Serenade. He is not my favorite (and Bogart falls lower than him, horrors) old Hollywood leading man even if he was supposedly the most popular. I prefer real Americans (jk, sort of).
    The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
    -I did not love this film, but Gregory Peck was in it so that covers a multitude of boring aspects.
    -I believe that I read the short story, and this considerably changed the tone making Peck’s character much nicer than the story character; he doesn’t strike me as a villain, but his wife was a whiny, selfish, insecure, cowardly, childish weakling. I did not find him at fault in that situation or not much. But her! She is awful (but she did feel some guilt). Still, I love that he wanted to her back; I loved his faithfulness.
    -And that ludicrous old Hollywood happy ending. Total opposite of the book.